Robert Zemeckis’ sequel in 1989 to the wildly popular Back to the Future was a little confusing to say the least. To quote Dean Pelton from Community, “time travel is really hard to write about.” In it, Zemeckis has his main characters travel across three separate timelines, one of which takes place in what at the time was the distant future of October 21, 2015. With that day finally having arrived, that future is now, giving us the luxury of looking back on what Back to the Future Part II thought life would be like right now.
Of course Zemeckis’ predictions weren’t all off. He correctly called things like our society’s obsession with vintage culture, thumbprint technology, and, as one futurist in Newsweek notes, the inevitable move of affluence away from the suburbs and into the city. Even so though, there were plenty of things we were promised that still have yet to arrive.
It’s 2015 and still we don’t have the hoverboard that Marty McFly was lucky enough to have in his version of the modern world. The rallying cry of the Internet in each year following Back to the Future II has always been “where is my hoverboard?” For now, that question is still largely unanswered, although futurist Ross Dawson makes a good point in Newsweek concerning our obsession with the technology rooted in sci-fi:
Science fiction creates the desire for the technology that we see, which means that entrepreneurs can see if there is a desire and they then work hard to be able to create the technologies that we’ve discovered that we want.
An indirect result? The creation of the actual, real life company Hendo Hoverboards. While the technology is very much in the concept stages and not ready for anything that resembles wide distribution, the intention is there to bring the hoverboard to life.
2. The Chicago Cubs World Series title
In Back to the Future Part II, we see a news broadcast crowning the Chicago Cubs as the 2015 World Series Champs, breaking their 100-plus-year drought. The 2015 World Series has yet to occur, but it looks like the Cubs are gearing up to fulfill that prediction. The last time the North-side Chicago team took home a title was 1908.
3. Self-lacing shoes
Although Velcro has been around for some time, we still don’t have the crazy-cool self-lacing high-tops Marty got to try. Nike played around with the idea back in 2011, releasing a prototype for the shoe to raise money for Michael J. Fox’s charity, promising the self-lacing technology in 2015. Well, that time is now, and it looks like we’re no closer despite the shoe mogul’s best efforts (estimates from Daily Dot had the 2011 Nike iteration running upwards of $2,000 a pop).
4. The rise of the fax machine
Back to the Future II painted a picture of a world where fax machines were the dominant communication technology. With the Internet still very much in the development phases back in 1989, email was barely on the radar of our collective minds back then. But faxing on the other hand was the next big thing. So naturally, why wouldn’t it be even bigger 30 years in the future? Newsweek’s team of futurists cites this misstep as “characteristic of a common forecasting pitfall, which is to overestimate the importance of something that is dominant in the current time.” In the Back to the Future 2015, even mailboxes have slots for faxing. Alas, the technology has gone by the wayside in favor of bigger and better things.
5. Flying cars
Ever since the car was invented, it seems like humanity’s been nigh obsessed with getting it to fly. Despite our desire for this, there are a number of factors that make our flying Delorean dreams impossible. Everything from the difficulty in navigating a flying car, to the fact that getting lift defies the nature of the vehicle. Factor in the insane regulatory systems that would have to be in place to ensure we don’t have midair explosions acting as a daily occurrence and it’s clear that Back to the Future lied to us on this front.
6. Jaws 19
By 1989, Steven Spielberg’s iconic monster flick Jaws was already on its fourth movie, titled Jaws: The Revenge. Any filmmaker around then would likely feel as though this Rocky-esque commitment to sequels would only continue to escalate as Back to the Future II predicted. In it, Marty walks by a holographic movie theater marquee advertising Jaws 19. While sequels 5 through 19 never did occur, Zemeckis was spot-on in our modern day obsession with franchise filmmaking. Just not quite in the killer shark realm.